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Home Heating and Cooling The Misleading “Science” Behind Heat & Insulation

The Misleading “Science” Behind Heat & Insulation

Conventional thinking says putting insulation in a building prevents heat loss in winter and heat gain in summer. This comes from the 19th century physicists who invented the laws of thermodynamics. The second law of thermodynamics  in particular gives us the impression that insulation can be a good thing.

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It says, in simplified terms, that heat flows from warmer areas to cooler areas. But it’s always good to question conventional thinking, so I’ve been looking into the history of heat.

What do we really know about heat?

I began with my undergraduate thermodynamics books and from there went through a review of graduate statistical mechanics, including the classic work by Cal Tech professor David Goodstein, States of Matter. I read the various formulations of the second law, including, of course, those by Carnot, Clausius, and Kelvin. But somehow there seemed to be something missing.

One day while I was reading about the new Tesla Model 3, it occurred to me that Nicola Tesla also did some work in the area of heat. I looked up everything I could find of his online, but the important stuff seemed always to be tantalizingly out of reach. In some of his works mentioned on the Web, especially those by the ridiculous “free energy” fanatics, there were references to papers he had written on a new theory of heat, but the actual papers weren’t online. So I headed down to the library at Georgia Tech.

It was there I discovered what may well be his most revolutionary scientific idea. He published a paper in the Physical Review in 1905 (the same year Einstein published his three groundbreaking papers!) titled On the Polarity of Thermal Energy. I made a photocopy of the paper and studied it intensely. As the title suggests, the most important part of the paper was his discovery that heat could be polarized. In fact, as with atoms, heat exists in three states: positive, negative, and neutral. Tesla even had names for the three types of heat: positherms, negatherms, and neutratherms. As with electricity, he found like thermal charges repel each other and opposites attact.

Why the second law of thermodynamics is incomplete

Physicist Ludwig Boltzmann is one of the 19th century scientists who gave us our current understanding of heat, thermodynamics, and statistical mechanics. But did you know he committed suicide? It’s true. Look it up. Paul Ehrenfest continued that same line of study, and he, too, committed suicide. What isn’t so well known is the actual reasons behind their suicides.

They had worked for decades to build upon the work of Rumford, Joule, and Kelvin. They created an elaborate set of postulates and axioms to shore up their laws of thermodynamics. Once word of Tesla’s theory of polarized heat got out, they cracked. They suddenly became aware of the critical nature of heat that they had missed, and that was more than they could handle.

As it turns out, the conventional understanding of the second law of thermodynamics is to the full theory of heat what Newtonian gravity is to the general theory of relativity. It’s a special case. It applies only to neutratherms, but when you incorporate positherms and negatherms, you open up a whole new world of knowledge and applications.

It’s time to get serious about heat and take its triune nature into account. Once we do so, we’ll solve global warming, reduce the costs (first and operating) of buildings, and create a lot of new jobs in the HVAC industry. Stay tuned. This story is just heating up!